Time is ripe for WPP changes

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Ann fudge is leaving Young & Rubicam, and Ed Meyer's contract at Grey Global is up at year end. And so goes a changing of the guard at two of WPP's agency networks. It's an appropriate time for both to leave the stage.

Ms. Fudge, chairman-CEO of Young & Rubicam Brands, in June gave up the CEO post at flagship Y&R Advertising to Hamish McLennan. Though Mr. Meyer has made no announcement about his plans, the chairman-CEO of Grey Global Group signaled his intent in August 2005 when he passed the reins to Jim Heekin, five months after WPP Group bought Grey.

Mr. Meyer for decades ran a public company as his private fiefdom till he sold out to Martin Sorrell in March 2005. A day later, he unloaded most of his new WPP stock. By Ad Age estimates, the Meyer family ended up with $445 million in cash, plus stock options and remaining WPP shares worth about $37 million. We hammered Mr. Meyer in editorials for lax corporate governance, underwhelming financial performance and excessive compensation, but he deserves credit for a graceful exit. He declined a WPP board seat-the right decision, for it's not his show. Mr. Meyer is likely to retire after 50 years at Grey when his contract ends Dec. 31. He'll turn 80 in January. We wish Mr. Meyer well.

And now Ms. Fudge. We had high hopes when Mr. Sorrell recruited the veteran marketing executive in 2003, yet risks were apparent from the start. "Ms. Fudge certainly knows how to buy advertising," we said on this page. "But skeptics-some inside Y&R and other WPP shops-already ask if she can lead an agency and sell great ad ideas."

The answers, unfortunately, were no and no. She brought management ideas and discipline, but Y&R struggled with account losses. In February 2005, we said Ms. Fudge should get "a little more time" to prove herself at Y&R Brands, but we called on her to give up her ad-agency post. In April '05, Ms. Fudge announced she'd do just that as soon as the agency found a successor. It took a year before she appointed Mr. McLennan. Now Ms. Fudge, 55, is retiring. It's time for her to go.
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